Photos contributed by Rusalka, aka Kiera and Diane
AgamemCon V was held at the Burbank Airport Hilton in Burbank, California. The convention ran June 8th – June 10th.
Report by Rusalka, aka Kiera
Thursday, June 7, 2001
I pulled into the Burbank Hilton at about 1500 and met my German roommate Michaela in the parking lot. We registered, got our stuff into our room, and unpacked. Pizza was ordered after our con committee arrived around 1830, and we all enjoyed pizza and the salads brought by Diane S. Plans were made for the next day and then everyone took off for their own rooms. Mary Ann, our Canadian roomie, joined Michaela and me sometime after 2200.
Friday, June 8, 2001
It was the first day of the con and we were excited. We called for a bellman to take down the things for the PREY table, as all of our volunteers seemed to have overslept. After getting everything down to the convention hall, we put together the cage and set up our stuff on the table. We had tons of stuff. PREY Pens, PREY Pencils, Bumper Stickers, Magnets, Bookmarks, Key Chains, T-Shirt Transfers, Stickers, Postcards, Petitions, and the autographed photos of Debra Messing. Also decorating our area was a working microscope complete with hair samples from ‘Tom’ and ‘Lynch’, and a gorilla in a cage that sang ‘Rescue Me’ when you squeezed his paw. Lee Ann’s photo collection was up on the wall. One end of the table held the TV and VCR that played our tapes over and over. In the center was a stand with 36 international flags representing all of the countries where PREY fans live. It was very impressive. The other end held the big cage with the cutout of Tom inside…and all over the place hung an assortment of monkeys wearing ‘You Will All Die’ signs.
I spoke briefly with Deb, the CO of the 99th Dragonslayers, the local fan club division for ‘SPACE: ABOVE and BEYOND’, and gave them some magnets and key chains to sell featuring James Morrison and the rest of the cast. She said that James Morrison’s attendance was still a rumor, but a strong one. She promised to make sure we knew if he showed. Nothing much else happened other than catching up with each other. Once the day was done everyone pitched in to carry things upstairs, then we headed out to ‘Gourmet 88’ for Chinese food. Later the writers gathered in CJ’s suite after dinner and talked about our schedule for the weekend. Did we stick to it? Well, nooooo!
Saturday, June 9, 2001 – OH MY GOD, WHAT A DAY!
We finished the set up of the PREY table at approximately 1000 hours then I began surveillance of the con. Expected activity had commenced in the panel rooms, special event rooms, and dealer rooms. I was conversing with one of the 99th and missed the arrival of our prime subject, James Morrison. The 99th’s CO alerted me, and not subtly, by grabbing my shoulders and physically turning me around while hissing "Turn around".
There he was, settling into a seat at the autograph table, looking tan and fit. My heart stopped briefly as my breath caught in my throat. I did a cursory inspection of the area, determined the subject was safe where he was for the moment and dashed out to alert my back up. Unfortunately my signal in the agreed upon code "Lewis is in the house" was forgotten by them…either that or my back up stayed out partying too late the night before, as I was greeted with blank stares. (Lewis was the part James portrayed in the TV series PREY). After I explained in great detail, and in words of one syllable (except for the subject’s last name), what was going on, I grabbed my equipment and returned to the dealer room.
Joel de la Fuentes (who is much taller than he appears on television) had joined James Morrison by the time I returned. I stood respectfully off to the side, waiting for my turn at the table. After several minutes of this I had taken to concentrating on the subject…perhaps a bit too much. I’m a psychic and an empath, but I don’t go around intentionally trying to read people…sometimes it just…happens. Anyway, he suddenly looked up, right into my eyes, smiled, shook his head – he had an odd expression on his face, a combination of recognition and surprise – and then turned back to the person he had been talking to.
My turn finally came, and I had him sign my lithograph. He was signing when Sue piped up "Kiera writes fan fiction about Lewis!" His eyebrows rose (I’ll bet he was imagining some of the PWP stuff that’s out there) and I damn near died of embarrassment on the spot. Sue, however, was oblivious, and fortunately for me continued with "Except she turned Lewis into one of the good guys." Well, I most certainly did not, so was outraged at this statement enough to regain my composure. I told them "I did not! The humans still think Lewis is evil! I’m just not telling the story from that point of view." James nodded, and agreed that point of view was everything to a story. I continued and said "I just always thought there had to be a heck of a motivation for what he was doing, why he was so cold, why he killed Lisa, why he let Tom live. I’m trying to tell the story behind his actions." James was nodding, very animated now, and said, "Well, there was a relationship there…between Lewis and Tom. I worked very hard to show that." I smiled and told him "Well, you succeeded admirably." His eyes widened, he smiled and said, "Why…thank you." I explained about the ongoing debates, none of which questioned whether there was some kind of relationship…but discussed just what the extent of that relationship might be. He seemed VERY pleased.
I then asked James if he remembered the teenager in Germany that sent him an e-mail asking what ‘CFB’ meant. He did not, I’m sad to say. I had told him about my friend Annette’s (the Junior Fiend’s) impending graduation, et al, and then about the email of several years ago and he looked (and suddenly felt) quite alarmed. "Did I tell her?" he asked. Joel began to laugh, and said "Uh oh. You’ve corrupted a minor in Germany! Doesn’t that break some international law?" I hastily assured James that he had explained the meaning most discretely, and that JF had guessed what he meant and then had confirmed her interpretation with someone else. He was distinctly relieved. The autograph was finished; I thanked him and went on to get Joel’s signature on my lithograph, then retreated to store it in a safe place.
I returned about fifteen minutes later and took a picture of the two of them, then turned back to the SAAB (SPACE: ABOVE & BEYOND) table to resume looking through their merchandise (pathetically enough, they probably had as much stuff as all of the official dealers combined!). Dan, the Dragonslayer’s XO, asked me if I had gotten a picture. I told him that yes; I had taken a picture of James and Joel. He said, "No, did you get a picture with him." Well, you all know me; I’m shy about things like that (stop laughing). I told Dan this, and he reached for my camera, pushed me in the direction of the table, and asked James to be in the picture. James agreed readily then came around the table. I was pink by this time and mentioned that I would never have asked this myself, that I was too shy. Well, he didn’t quite laugh, but he did say rather vehemently "You are NOT shy!" as he draped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me close. I said, rather ‘intelligently’, "Am so!" I could feel his amusement at this point as he returned "Noooo!" Dan snapped the picture before I turned into a puddle of Jell-O, and James mentioned that he would stop by the PREY table in a few minutes. I thanked him, and escaped.
I went back to the PREY table, still bright red, and collapsed into a chair. Then I jumped up and began cleaning up the mess people had left (soda cans, candy wrappers and such along the back end of the table) and tucking people’s purses and other personal belongings under it so that the table would look its best when James arrived.
James showed up a few minutes later, and admired the table. Judy bought one of my key chains to give him…she had me putting one together with his picture in it…the ones that I had made previously had all been sold. He pocketed the key chain; I’m told he said something about giving it to Seamus (James’ son). He played with some of the things on the table, talked to folks and then stopped in front of the fan fiction…oh god. Mine, of course, had the cover with the drawing of Lewis and Keri. Some of the other folks were asking him to sign things, and I figured I should too…hmmm, maybe have him sign the fan fic? I was going to give him the title page to sign, and then my eye caught the "NC-17" warning on it. Nope, that wouldn’t do…no, that would be very baaaad; I would surely die of embarrassment if he read that. So, I pulled the artwork from its plastic sleeve and presented that. He looked it over and his eyebrows rose. "That doesn’t look like Lewis," he commented. "Well, Lewis was on the run and had to cut his hair and remove the goatee," I said. James’ eyebrows rose further. "Uh, huh," he said in a disbelieving tone. I blushed. "Okay, well, I didn’t have a good Lewis picture to look at while I was drawing, so I had to use the one of you as McQueen in the flight suit with the helmet under your arm." "Ahhh. That explains it. It’s quite good," he said as he autographed it. I was almost literally dancing with joy at this point, as I’m sure you can imagine.
Next it was time for the now traditional group picture. Everyone was milling around and there were several people between James and me. I decided that was okay, since I had a private picture where I was right next to him. Then Michaela and Genny moved, dropping down in front of him, and an arm reached out, and there I was right next to him again. Accckkk! What incredible luck! As you can see in the picture I was very pleased…to put it mildly. Judy then gave him her PREY baseball cap. He thought it was too much, but she insisted she wanted him to have it. We tried to get him to pose in the cage, but he gently refused. He was late as it was…he’s teaching a yoga class and it was due to start in 15 minutes and was on the other side of the valley. So, off he went. I wasn’t the only one who was dancing around for quite some time thereafter. Oh, and he saw Margaret doing her MacKenna thing (a character in her ‘Prisoners’ fan fic) with the blue hair…but I imagine he hadn’t a clue why her hair was blue!
I went upstairs to get some lunch and called Banshee (Alicia, a fellow member of my SAAB squadron, the Screamin’ Demons) to share the news. She was excited for me, but warned me NOT to call her if Adam Storke should show up unless I wanted to be responsible for her putting her head in the oven. Sigh. I tried to call the Junior Fiend in Germany, but my cell phone wouldn’t let me make an international call within LA city limits without a pass code and I couldn’t reach customer service to get that code. I returned to the con.
The afternoon wore on. Barry Caldwell (who was an intern on the PREY set and who put up the first PREY web site) stopped by. We all talked a bit and he promised to drop by the PREY message board and say hello.
Several hours later I had mostly recovered and was sitting behind the PREY table when Joel de la Fuentes and a man walked by. A few of the preymates were wondering who the other fellow was. I looked up and frowned – he looked kind of familiar, so I followed them into the dealer room where Tucker Smallwood was ensconced behind the autograph table. They split up and a minute later another familiar face wandered by. My jaw dropped…it was Rodney Rowland! He hadn’t even been in the list of possible attendees! My brain finally kicked into gear and I realized the other man had been Morgan Weisser. His hair was cut shorter than a genuine marine’s and he was wearing glasses that looked like the PX had issued them…it definitely did not do him justice. I dashed back to the PREY table to report and found Lee Ann in a tizzy. She had recognized Rodney as he walked through the courtyard and was literally speechless. Well, she was making noises, but only the kindest person would classify those noises as speech.
I went back to the dealer room in time to see James Morrison return. Did that mean they were all going to do the actor’s panel? Yes, it did! Elaine, Gerry, Cordelia, CJ, Michaela, Clarke, Mary Ann, and I headed for the special events room to claim seats for the actor’s panel. Elaine, Gerry, and I chose seats in the second row…but no one sat in the front row, so we were actually right in front.
Everyone finally took their seats and the panel began. James was seated on the left end of the table, Tucker on the right. From left to right between them were Morgan, Joel, and Rodney. Kristian Sorensen sat to Tucker’s right; he was moderating the panel and contributing when folks had Chig or military questions. The guys were obviously pleased to be there together. They had a great time joking with each other, teasing back and forth. I don’t know how he did it, but James managed to get in some real zingers while appearing to be perfectly serious. The others were teasing him right back and very badly, but their respect and caring was easy to read, and they could not keep a straight face to save their lives.
Okay, things we learned during the panel. Tucker Smallwood and Rodney Rowland did a movie together recently (filmed in India) about a terrorist that hacks into aviation computers and is crashing planes. I believe that Tucker plays an exec or some kind of official and Rodney plays his assistant. It’s untitled at the moment as another movie with the intended name of their movie was just released. Tucker also has a small part in ‘The One’. Rodney had just returned (early) from Bulgaria where he filmed a heist movie. I don’t think he had the title for that either. He loved it there, said it was wild, like the old west. Joel de la Fuentes has been doing ‘100 Centre Street’, and some stage work, and has a baby due in August. Morgan Weisser just shot several episodes of a new series called ‘The Beast’ for ABC. I teased them about it being the ‘Already Been Cancelled’ network and managed to scare the crap out of him…he thought I was saying the show had already been cancelled. Sigh. He also expressed interest in starting a family, but the others teased him about having to find a girl first. Hear that ladies? Send him a photo! James Morrison had just finished filming a part in the new Jet Li movie, ‘The One’. The movie was to appear in theaters in August. James had no idea that the release of ‘The One’ had been postponed until November. We explained that another Jet Li movie had just been released and they probably didn’t want to saturate the market with Jet. Other than that, he has been teaching yoga and renovating the house he recently bought.
Shortly after that, James’ phone rang. He apologized, looked at it, said, "It’s my wife," and then answered it after many, many rings. He said, "Can you call me back at…" and gave a number, said thanks, and turned the phone off. He said that his wife was home working on the renovation; he seemed quite pleased that he was getting out of it. A few minutes later Kristian Sorensen’s phone rang. He answered it, said, "He’s right here. James, it’s your wife!" James looked rather alarmed until Kristian started laughing and said he was kidding.
Finally it was time to close the panel session. I interrupted Kristian and told them, "Tucker’s heard this speech before, so he doesn’t have to listen." Tucker looked confused. I’d realized earlier that he hadn’t remembered me at all from last year…as I had expected. I pulled out four Kukui nut leis and explained the tradition behind them – the Kukui Nut was originally used for light. They are an oily nut and were strung on palm fronds and the bottom nut lit. They would slowly burn up providing a steady light. The dried version is strung on ribbon and is traditionally given to entertainers or teachers…those who bring light into our lives. Tucker’s face cleared…now he remembered. "I still have mine, it’s hanging on the wall in my guest room!" he told everyone. I got up and walked around the table. Now, being shy (don’t laugh, damn it!) I was not about to make a beeline for James, so I started at the other end of the table with Rodney. He stood, and ducked his head down (tall boy that he is) and I put the lei around his neck. Rodney evidently has received Hawaiian leis before and he automatically went for the mutual hug and cheek kiss. I was surprised, but hell, that was way cool! I gave Joel his and he did the same. Joel looked very touched at the sentiment behind the giving of the Kukui nut lei. I went around the other side of the table to give Morgan his…who also followed Rodney’s example, and then gave one to James. As I reached him I grinned, blushed, and said, "Yes, the pest is back." He chuckled and since everyone else had, also did the hug and cheek kiss thing. All I could think was; God, I hope someone is taking pictures! Michaela thinks she got all of them, and Mary Ann thinks she got the one with James…I can’t wait to see for sure!
I got Morgan and Rodney to sign my lithograph and then escaped from the crowd. I saw James a few minutes later as he crossed the main hall. He stopped, lifted up the lei, and grinned ear to ear and said, "Hey, I’m even dressed for this!" It hadn’t really registered before since I’m so used to seeing them after spending almost 20 years in Hawaii, but he was wearing a Hawaiian business style shirt. I laughed and agreed, and thanked him again before he disappeared. I went back up to my room
Later, as I headed down for the R&R (which none of the actors save Kristian were able to attend), I passed James, Rodney, Morgan, Joel, and Tucker in the hall. Joel stopped; his whole face lit up, and thanked me profusely for the lei. I just smiled, and said, "No, thank you." The others just smiled, nodded and kept on going…no doubt afraid I’d subject them to some other indignity!
The R&R commenced and was soon over. Because the actors couldn’t make it (they had a business meeting) the 99th gave away merchandise that pretty much covered the cost of the function.
Well, next it was PARTY TIME! Elaine and I headed for the Ready Reserve’s party. It was okay. Lots of people were coming and going. The most interesting thing was the con staff coming through and talking about things that were going on. This was, Alec confirmed, the final AgamemCon. They’ve been losing money consistently. Other staff members intend to run a different con in the same place and same time of year, but it will likely take a couple of years to get it going, they don’t have enough backing. Another staff member came in and told us she had seen the SAAB actors in the hotel restaurant…with Glen Morgan AND Jim Wong. She’d sidled past them discretely and noted that they were talking Business. Serious Business. Hmm. Could be interesting. Now, this next is MY speculation ONLY. Morgan and Wong have been doing feature films. They are gaining clout. Could something big be in the works? I sure hope so. At the very least it looks like they are going to be throwing work the way of the SAAB actors!
Elaine finally headed for bed a bit after 11pm. I was comfortably settled so stayed put…I was supposed to attend a writer’s get together in CJ’s room…but…ah well. At one point I ended up sitting there alone with Kristian Sorensen who informed me that he was now officially unattached. Take note, ladies! Shadow returned and joined us, then Deb buzzed back into the room around midnight…she’d been party hopping, and insisted we all go downstairs where there was some dancing going on. Kristian wasn’t interested, and she told him that he had a choice, be bored up here, or go downstairs and have fun. He gallantly said that here he was, sitting and talking to three beautiful women, he was already having a great time. But, Deb’s enthusiasm finally prevailed and we all trooped downstairs and over to the convention hall. Dancing ensued, Kristian managed to get Shadow out on the floor for a set of dancing…then the DJ gave it up for the night. Next it was off to the anime screening room where someone was showing the Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with off-color narration, but without props. Well, we didn’t know it was going to be happening, so no one was prepared. I finally gave up the fight to stay awake sometime after 0145 and headed off to bed. I later learned that Deb had led the remainder of the group party hopping again, and that Kristian had peeked into the PREY writer’s suite several times, finally bringing his whole group in with him! We teased him about that on Sunday.
Sunday, June 10th, 2001
Sunday came and passed in a haze. I was still on cloud nine from Saturday! We talked to various fans, coerced Kristian Sorensen into signing a ‘PREY’ petition to send to Warner Brothers, and generally hung out. We packed things out about 1600 and retreated to the PREY Meeting suite for a wrap up discussion. AgamemCon is dead, and we need to find a new location for next year. There was a great deal of enthusiasm about trying WorldCon in San Jose in 2002. It’s over Labor Day weekend. While it is a huge con, it is a very important one. And if we get into negotiations with the con staff soon, we might be able to get a lot of publicity between now and then…this is almost more important that what we could do at the con itself. SciFi fans, writers, producers, actors, and assorted media from the world over visit the WorldCon site.